Michael Soltys, who first entered the Buenos Aires Herald in 1983, held various editorial posts at the newspaper from 1990 and was the lead writer of the publication’s editorials from 1987 until 2017.
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In that famous song “For he’s a jolly
good fellow,” the word “jolly” is
usually taken to mean “very.” But in
the case of Barney Miller, who died last
month, the phrase should be understood quite literally – in many ways, it
was the secret of his charm and, in
turn, his success.
Behind the “Hey Nonny No” minstrel, the keen sportsman and the born
actor was a sharp mind which he devoted to tireless work for Anglo-Argentine community life beyond a successful business career. More precise
details of his contributions to community activities on both sides of the Atlantic (with the Argentine-British
Community Council and the AngloArgentine Society in London) will be
appearing where they belong – in the
Summer edition of the ABCC’s The
Bulletin – but suffice it to say here that
it was sheer personality which made
him stand out as an institutional pillar.
Barney Miller represented such a
perfect Anglo-Argentine synthesis
that it comes as somewhat of a surprise to learn that he was born in neither
country. Morris Barnes Miller Junior
(his real name was one of his betterkept secrets) was born in Pasadena,
California, on November 8, 1929 – just
a fortnight after the Wall Street crash.
But the Great Depression and his
mother’s remarriage saw him move to
Argentina – first in Temperley and then
in Hurlingham – in 1933 at the tender
age of four. An early challenge because he started off with no Spanish and
the wrong accent for St. George’s College, but he adapted completely in
both cases – perhaps Oxford English
would not be quite the right phrase
(since he went to Cambridge) but it was
definitely the Queen’s English.
An avid sportsman in school (swimming, cricket, rugby, boxing), he devoted the first three decades of his adult
life to the Johnson Wax Company while always remaining somebody who
worked to live rather than lived to work
– a live-wire in generally light-hearted
community cultural activities (such as
the famous Camp Week Shows), both
behind his guitar and on the stage.
For almost the last half-century of
his long life (as from 1971) he was
permanently based abroad but constantly popping up in Hurlingham and
making his presence felt.
Quite apart from long heading the
Anglo-Argentine Society in London,
Barney’s interest in his first real home
was revived by the South Atlantic conflict of 1982 – especially in the remainder of the 20th century he devoted
considerable effort to brainstorming
ways of rebuilding the bridges between Argentina and Britain.
Barney was a mainstay in organising nine Anglo-Argentine meetings
(modelled on the postwar Anglo-German Königswinter conferences)
through to 2006, bringing together
politicians, journalists, artists, businessmen and clergy for open-ended
and broad-based talks. He spread a
wide net for possible solutions, such as
the Finnish-Swedish condominium of
Åland in the Baltic.
Barney evidently had powerful genes because of his four children (Julie,
Catharine, Sarah and Dominic) the
eldest is today the president of the
Anglo-Argentine Society in London
and the youngest has long been a guitarist with Sting, while two of his
grandsons (Archie and Lucas) were
journalists in the last years of the Buenos Aires Herald.
May he rest in the peace he always
sought and spread.